Man Talks About Trip to South Africa Right After Mandela Death

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CLEVELAND – A Northeast Ohio man has returned home after a trip to South Africa that coincided with the death of Nelson Mandela.

“When I landed, after a 16-hour flight, the very first thing the pilot said when we touched the ground was that Nelson Mandela had passed away and there were gasps and sighs throughout the airplane,” said Keith Benjamin from Bratenahl.

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5 at the age of 95.

“It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa,” said South African President Jacob Zuma at Mandela’s memorial service.

For many, Mandela was considered the father of the ‘new’ South Africa and according to Benjamin, it was emotional and uplifting to be in the region as millions celebrated his life.

“People were bringing flowers, signs and notes and laying them at statues of Mandela that are down at the waterfront,” said Benjamin, who snapped dozens of pictures and recorded video of people dancing in the streets in the days following his death.

Mandela’s message of reconciliation, not vengeance, inspired the world after he negotiated a peaceful end to segregation and urged forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison," Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.

Benjamin said the experience in South Africa was enlightening and he hopes Mandela’s legacy continues to have a positive impact on people around the world.

“I still think that there are issues - obviously in South Africa - where they are still dealing with issues of discrimination and prejudice and obviously. We’re still dealing with those issues here in our country,” said Benjamin. “But I think that we can take those lessons that Mandela has taught us and use those for the betterment of all of society.”

Read more on Nelson Mandela's life and death.


  • george johnston

    Nobel Peace Prize? Mandela, Obama, Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat got that too–and Arafat killed a bunch of people.

    • SoSueMe

      Yeah, so did Nelson “Necklace” Mandela. He was nothing to celebrate over. Was a communist sympathizer and turned a prosperous country into a 3rd world $h!thole. He was a joke, just like the other 3 you mentioned.

  • andrewza

    Nelsom mandela was in prison during the use of the necklace killings and was against the tahe tageting of cilvlians. He was a terrorist and saboter but so where the founding farthers of america. He did not win his peace price for his anti aparthied struggel he got it because he treid to work with the whites not against them.

    Compare the aprouch to mugaby both where in simlare postions. One is poor country dependent on aid from the other. There where many people in the ANC that want to go the root of mugaby. Neslon was the force that guided it to a more peace full ending. That is why he wone his peace price.

    • SoSueMe

      Really? I guess he forget to tell his kook of a wife he was “against” those killings. The one part you did get correct, he was terrorist and saboteur.

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